City Says Layoffs Will Happen; If Not Firefighters, Then Others

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RENO, NV -- Within the next 7 days, we'll know the fate of 32 firefighters who are set to be laid off July 1st from the Reno Fire Department.

On Tuesday, Washoe District Court Judge Lidia Stiglich heard arguments from The city of Reno and the Reno Firefighters Union regarding whether the proposed layoffs are legal under Nevada law.

The problem rose in late April, when the city of Reno and its fire department learned they were not approved for a SAFER grant. It's a grant from the Department of Homeland Security that for the previous two years allowed Reno to add an additional 50 firefighters to its staff.

City staff decided they did not have the funds to employ the firefighters without the SAFER grant, so the decision was made to lay off 32 of them. Money was found to pay 17 of them and the remaining firefighter position was saved when one firefighter decided to retire.

The Firefighters Union did not like this plan, filing a lawsuit against the city of Reno, suggesting the layoffs would violate NRS Statute 288. That statute says municipalities can not lay off firefighters unless there is a lack of need, or a lack of funds. No one denies the need for firefighters in our community, but Reno says it doesn't have the money to pay them.

Through testimony on Tuesday, the city explained its cash reserves and why they are essential for a healthy budget. Reno's Finance Director Robert Chisel said the city has to keep 8% of its funds in reserves in order to make sure they can make all of their payments.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger also took the stand and said if the city is not allowed to lay off the 32 firefighters, they will have no choice but to lay off people elsewhere in city staff. Either way people will lose their jobs.

The firefighters' union says the city is bluffing. They say they have money that would be able to pay for all the firefighters to remain on, but they say the city does not want to spend it. They point to $7.5 million the city is set to collect from RTC in the next fiscal year. The Firefighters Union says this money could be used to employ all the firefighters for a few years. The city says it wants to use some of the money to pay off City Hall, then use the rest of the money to employ 15 firefighters indefinitely.

Judge Lidia Stiglitch has to decide if she agrees with the city's argument or the labor union's argument. She says she will issue a decision with seven days. At that point, she could issue a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the layoffs. She could also decide to allow the layoffs to happen.

Stay with KOLO 8 News Now for the latest developments on this matter.